Lake Forest High School‘s storied tradition of playing its field hockey games on the school’s front lawn area may give way to a new tradition this fall.
The Diamond Anniversary campaign, begun in October 2011 by the Lake Forest Booster Club to raise funds to replace and upgrade the athletic facilities at the high school’s east campus, will donate $1.7 million to Lake Forest High School District 115 to install a turf field and replace the eight-lane outdoor track. The district was facing a $1.6 million price tag to replace the track and raze and replace the rundown bleachers and storage structures at Lindenmeyer Field.
The District 115 Board of Education recently approved the funds; the construction bidding process is under way and should be finalized within the next few weeks. The approval of the booster gift is contingent on acceptance of final bids and execution of a memorandum of understanding between the district and the boosters. The first shovel could go into the ground later this month.
”The Booster Club has demonstrated an outstanding history of innovative leadership in supporting student athletes and their activities at Lake Forest High School. This partnership carries on that tradition,” said District 115 Superintendent Harry Griffith.
The turf field and track could be available for use in September pending the construction timetable and any delays during the construction phase, according to Brian Vandenberg, co-chair of the Diamond Anniversary Campaign.
The $1.7 million fell short of the proposed $2.5 million goal. It still represented the largest gift to the school in its 75-year history and one of the largest single gifts by any booster organization to a public high school in the state of Illinois, according to Ellen Funk, president of the Lake Forest Booster Club and co-chair of the Diamond Anniversary Campaign.
Vandenberg was happy with the six-month campaign.
“It was an ambitious goal,” he said. “The perfect plan would be to do everything we wanted. But I know that perfection is the enemy of good. I think what we’re doing is pretty good. I’m happy with it. We maintain the flexibility to add additional phases.”
The $1.7 million gift will be paid to District 115 over multiple years, since the terms of donors’ pledges ranged from one to five years.
“Our donor list includes some of the most philanthropic families and organizations in this community, with a demonstrated history of giving in support of LFHS and other community causes,” Vandenberg said. “We’re very grateful for their support of this new asset for our high school and our students.”
The construction will include the demolition of the bleachers at the facility. The east bleachers were condemned during the school year after a district inspection determined they were unsafe. The west-side grandstand also will be demolished, and a set of bleachers will be installed on the west side of the track to accommodate both the turf field and track.
The track infield will maintain its grassy area and continue to be used for multiple sports both by the school and by outside groups.
The fundraising will not stop with the installation of the turf field and track. The Diamond Campaign will continue, but not with such a prominent positioning as before. Future phases hope to include raising funds to add a second turf field inside the track, a press box and a more significant grandstand, Vandenberg said.
“We’ll continue our efforts,” he said. “We’ll weave it into our booster operations but still be a specific cause.”